SLCC’s $1M NSF Grant Benefits Low-income, Academically Talented STEM Students

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Over the next five years, NSF funding will support 56 incoming STEM students at SLCC and 35 students who are close to finishing their STEM degrees at the college.

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Part of what is unique about this scholarship is that students will take a scientific research proposal writing class in their first year and they will work with a faculty mentor to develop an original research proposal.

Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) is proud to announce it has received a $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to provide scholarships for low-income, academically talented STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) students. This funding will help the college improve the retention and completion rates of students in STEM programs as well as support those who choose to transfer to four-year institutions.

Over the next five years, the NSF funding will provide 56 incoming STEM students with up to $10,700 in financial and academic support for two years, helping with costs like tuition, books and fees. Scholarship money will also be available for 35 students classified as “near completers,” those close to finishing their STEM degrees, providing one semester of support.

“This new award will positively affect the lives of our students and their families as we use the funding to support them in achieving higher education goals,” says Craig Caldwell, dean of the SLCC School of Science, Mathematics and Engineering. “The award is directly aligned with the college’s goal of providing equitable access to higher education and allows us to continue supporting students who show remarkable courage, resolve and academic talent.”

The new grant will build upon successes from prior awards provided by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and NSF in 2015. The 2015 NSF award, called Utah STEM Scholars, was more than $600,000 and yielded direct scholarships to 120 students. At SLCC, Utah STEM Scholars was managed in partnership with the DOE’s TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) STEM program, which is designed to support low-income first-generation college students. Combined, these programs helped improve retention and graduation rates among the college’s STEM students and contributed to a dramatic improvement in student grades.

In addition, the pairing of these programs led to the renewal of the TRIO SSS STEM grant for another five-year term in 2020. The extension of both awards will allow SLCC to continue supporting STEM students in need and allow the college to hire a full-time student success coach who will provide focused services for scholarship recipients.

To qualify for an NSF scholarship, a student must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, have a demonstrated financial need and be working toward a STEM degree. Students must also provide documented evidence of volunteer service in their communities, meet certain academic and testing benchmarks and supply letters of recommendation.
While at SLCC, NSF scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to engage in high-impact educational practices, such as participating in undergraduate research projects, to better prepare them for what lies ahead in their academic and professional journeys.

“Part of what is unique about this scholarship is that students will take a scientific research proposal writing class in their first year and they will work with a faculty mentor to develop an original research proposal,” says Kathy Bell, associate professor of biology at SLCC. “Students may choose to complete the research project with their faculty mentor the following semester, or they can choose another high-impact practice that fits with their aptitudes and interests. These types of project-based learning approaches are shown to increase student retention and persistence.”

SLCC competed with hundreds of applicants for this latest grant, which was among an estimated 60 awarded, and the funding comes during a time when Utah is experiencing significant growth in high-wage STEM fields.

This project is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #2027796. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this press release are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Salt Lake Community College is Utah’s largest open-access college, proudly educating the state’s most diverse student body in 8 areas of study at 12 locations and online. The majority of SLCC graduates transfer to four-year institutions, and thousands more are trained in direct-to-workforce programs. In 2023, the institution will be celebrate 75 years of providing Utahns with education and training in fields that contribute to the state’s vibrant economy and high quality of life.

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Stephen Speckman
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